In 1981, Robert W. Bogle started working as a salesman at The Philadelphia Tribune, the oldest African-American publication in Philadelphia. By the end of the decade, he had worked his way up, taking over as its president and CEO in 1989.
“Who would tell the story of African Americans if we didn’t,” Bogle said. “The Philadelphia Tribune has told that story for 135 years, never missing an edition.”
Bogle held a conversation with Cody Anderson, a radio personality at WURD radio, about the role of African American media in Philadelphia at Sullivan Hall on Jan. 29. The Blockson Collection hosted this event.
It was the first lecture in the Dr. Ione Vargus series, named after the university’s first African-American dean.
As jazz music played in the background, Bogle’s former coworkers, students, staff, faculty and the Tribune readers gathered. Bogle and Anderson spoke on challenges in the African American community and the Tribune and WURD radio, the only black-owned radio station in Philadelphia.
“WURD is the center for everyone to reach the African American community,” Anderson said. “We are a trusted outlet with diverse opinions where I always make my decisions based on the people that are relevant to the African American community.”
Advertisers don’t always support African American media and the duo recounted how they represented African Americans in the media, Anderson said.
“We gathered radio and print media to confront businesses that refused to support African Americans in general, yet they would take our money and run to the bank,” Bogle said. “We never threatened anyone, but we made it clear that we would not support them.”
Bogle added that Anderson has had a large part in confronting these large corporations. He also spoke on equality and people in the crowd muddled words of agreement.
“There are those who have denied our right to sit at the table everyone should have a right to sit at,” said Bogle. “For that, the Tribune has challenged those disparities that have consumed us.”
African American communities and their patronage can be taken for granted, Anderson said. It is when media for the African American community is owned by African Americans, that the right message is conveyed, he said.
Anderson said there is a difference in African American owned media and African American programmed media. He went on to say that Power 99 is a station African Americans listen to but it is not a philosophy that caters to the African American community.
“For a long time, I have subscribed to the Tribune and Bogle has stayed with it through its ups and downs,” Dr. Ione Vargus, who was dean of the school of social work for 13 years, said. “Having this audience hear more about the African American paper is so important.”
Everett Stanten, an attendee and founder of African American History and Culture Showcase, an annual event to showcase African Americans in history, has known Bogle for 25 years and said that it is important for people to get information from Bogle.
“He has been so successful in creating that bridge between the African American community and big corporations,” Stanten said.
Bogle and Anderson wrapped up the conversation by highlighting the troubles the African American community has faced and how their media have developed to shed light on those stories.
Speaking from the perception and reality of an African American is not something anyone outside of that perception can do, Bogle said, which is why it is important that a black publication tells the stories of African American people.
“The struggle of African Americans since 1619 has not been an easy road to travel and today I am proud to be an African American,” Bogle said. “For those who have endured like we have, you have to stand up and say ‘I will not take this anymore.’”